Frequently Asked Questions
All about Northstar Bison animals:
1) Are your Bison 100% Grass fed?
Yes, you can take that to the bank! Our animals NEVER receive any form of grain in their life. 100% grassfed meat has a very desirable CLA level and Omega 3's vs Omega 6 fatty acids creating a favorable ratio of 4:1 (6's to 3's).
The CLA Advantage
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a naturally occurring free fatty acid found mainly in meat and dairy products in small amounts. CLA was discovered by accident in 1978 by Michael W. Pariza at the University of Wisconsin while looking for mutagen formations in meat during cooking. The most abundant source of natural CLA is the meat and dairy products of grass-fed animals. Research conducted since 1999 shows that grazing animals have from 3-5 times more CLA than animals fattened on grain in a feedlot. Simply switching from grain-fed to grass-fed products can greatly increase your intake of CLA. (Dhiman, T. R., G. R. Anand, et al. (1999). "Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets." J Dairy Sci 82(10): 2146-56.)
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid for human growth and development. We must have it to be healthy. Grass-finished beef is a great source for this essential nutrient. The source of Omega 3 is the green leaves of plants. When cattle eat their natural diet, beef becomes a great source of Omega 3. Grain is not a rich source of Omega 3, so standard, cattle-finishing practices cause the Omega 3 level to decrease dramatically.
2) How many cows to you guys have?
All our bison are not on one farm. We are an assembly of over 10 very small family farms and Nature Conservancies, no factories, that all work together with exact same standards. The average herd is around 50 head, and varies from 5 to several hundred.
3) Can we see your farm?
You are welcome to visit any time. Our store is open Monday-Friday (8-5) at 2500 College Drive, Rice Lake,(winter hours) Friday 8-5 and Saturday 8-12 on the ranch. We have virtual tours on our website, YouTube, & Facebook, and we conduct an annual Customer Appreciation Day as well as an Annual Producer’s Conference both of which are held on a producer’s farm. You can get these dates on the website. We can also arrange for private tours of our ranch.
4) Do you raise these bison yourself? Are you the owner?
Lee, Marielle & Vince are the hands working the closest with the animals. Mary & Sean work closest with our customers. You can see pictures on our website. Lee & Mary Graese own Northstar Bison, LLC which owns the animals and processing plants.
5) How many acres do you have?
We personally graze over 1200 acres and have 14 other producers who raise for us according to our grassfed program. Every load of animals comes with a signed affidavit agreeing to fulfilling the 100% grassfed, hormone & antibiotic-free protocal established by Northstar Bison. We do not vaccinate or use canvass wormers.
6) What kind of grass do you feed them?
Our bison get a variety of grass and nothing is better than a ploy culture perennial prairie. Native prairies have 50-60 species. Of the newer grasses we include brome, perennial rye, orchard, fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and even crab grass. We like to make sure there are at least 10% legumes which are clovers, alfalfa, lespedeza, birdsfoot trefoil and others. Lucky farmers can grow the native grasses such as big and little bluestem, buffalo grass, and others. We also enjoy the medicinal effects of certain “weeds” which can act as a wormer or even an antibiotic or stomach tonic.
7) Do you use pesticides on your grass?
No chemicals are added. The nice thing about prairie grass is that, with good management and rotational grazing, it just keeps getting better. Noxious weeds are crowded out and the better grasses just keep getting stronger. We do this by naturally healing the soil and reseeding the good grasses, sometimes every year until we get good pastures growing.
8) How are your animals fed?
Our bison are raised pretty much exactly like bison should be raised! They are free to roam and we rotationally graze them so they move just like a wild bison herd. Actually, about 95% of the bison in America are finished with a grain supplement.
9) How are your animals processed?
Our "field killing process" is a zero stress process for the animal. We have an 80 acre farm at our processing plant that we use as grazing/kill
pastures. The grazing land is broken up into 3 pastures approximately 20 acres in size, which gives plenty of space for a heard of bison to roam freely. The animals are grazing in the pastures when they are harvested from a distance with a rifle shot to the brain for an instant kill. It does not get any more humane than that! This is something that we have been doing since we started slaughtering for meat back in 1997 and we are proud tell anyone that wants to know.
10) What do they eat in the winter?
Our bison graze as long as weather permits and then we give them stored hay and grass. It’s basically the same nutrients just stored from the summer. We can often stockpile some extra grass for late fall feeding. Some grazing is possible even in the winter as long as the snow is not too deep. Bison can smell grass thru 2 feet of snow and graze thru 4 or 5 feet of snow. They eat snow for their water.
11) Isn’t it OK to give them a tiny bit of grain the “last few days”
Actually NOT! According to USDA standards for "grassfed", grain can never be fed at any time in their life and will alter their rumin in as little as 10 days.
12) Is it “Organic”?
While we are not certified by the USDA, we consider the quality and safety of our meat beyond organic. We raise the animals on chemical free pastures. Our protocol makes sure we do not use antibiotics, hormones or pesticides plus, if health is your interest, 100% grass-fed is even more important than organic alone. We feel that organic feedlot bison still have problems we don’t have.
13) Yum! What did you put on it?
Usually nothing but you can add a little sea salt, which is good for you, and occasionally, I use a little black pepper. So, just salt and pepper, nothing else! Really good meat stands alone without any sauces, marinades or other flavorings.
14) Isn’t “corn fed” meat better tasting?
Corn fed bison certainly has a distinct flavor. We have, for the most part, grown up on it as it was all that was available but once people experience the clean, fresh flavor of the grass-fed one quickly becomes spoiled and nothing less will do! Grass-fed bison should never be gamey or strong. It should taste clean and delicious and slightly sweet. Dr. Marchelo from NDSU did a double blind taste test and the results confirmed that grassfed bison had a very distinct, desirable flavor.
15) How shall we cook it?
Check out our Cooking Guidelines. We do recommend that you try slowly cooking it to one stage less than you are used to having. We do this because over-cooking dries and toughens meat. It also destroys many of the vitamins, enzymes and nutrients. It takes a while to get used to the extra flavor but the rewards are great.
16) Do you have pre-formed patties?
We do! They are in the frozen section and they are very convenient. They can be put right into the skillet or on the grill while frozen. It is great for a fast meal, just start with a low flame. It’s the exact same bison with all the health benefits.
17) Do you have 94% extra, extra lean?
Grass-fed is extremely lean by nature. We have just about the leanest meat around. However, it might interest you that you can enjoy the lean version (90%) as well since the fat in grass-fed bison is actually very good for you, essential actually. Most Americans and even 85% of the children in America are deficient in Omega 3 fat. Grass-fed bison has as much as a wild salmon.
18) Is this meat safe for a celiac person?
YES! This meat contains no glutens or particles from grain. It seems to digest very well for people with sensitive digestive systems.
19) Which steak is the best?
This is a lot of personal preference here. We don’t make a bad steak though! Everyone likes the tenderloin, it’s the tenderest of all cuts and the size is smaller in general. The two most popular steaks are the NY strip and Rib eye. These are tender and very flavorful steaks that satisfy everyone. They are also a good size for a good appetite. Next on the list would be the top sirloin which is an extremely flavorful steak with lots of character.
20) I live alone; can I get a half pound?
21) Do you have recipes?
22) Why is your meat darker?
Many of our steaks are wrapped at our licensed processing plant in a new material called CRYOVAC. It’s a non-leaching material that makes a perfect seal for safety and to prevent freezer burn to damage the meat. Since the steak was only exposed to oxygen for a few seconds before packaging, it hasn’t turned bright red yet, a process that is called oxidation. All bison is the slight purple color when it is first cut. The oxidation will continue until it turns brown, a color change but one that won’t hurt you. As soon as you open the package you will see the color begin to change to the bright meat color.
23) How long can I keep it before I use or freeze it
The new packaging gives you lots of options. You don’t have to cook the meat on the day you buy it. Also, if you decide you want to freeze it instead, you may keep up for up to 3 years. However we don't recommend that you wait that long to enjoy it. It will remain perfectly stable, fresh, delicious and nutritious. (Freezing all food lowers the nutrients slightly). The fresh, unfrozen ground is good at least 3-4 weeks and the fresh, unfrozen steaks for at least 8-12 weeks in your refrigerator in vacuum sealed packaging.
24) How do you cook a roast
We have two favorite ways. The most common is to slow cook it in a crock pot. It’s even better if you throw in a few vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, a bit of salt and pepper, and 1-2” of water. Cook it on low until the inner temperature is at least 140 degrees, which is about 5-6 hours for most roasts. It will be tender, juicy and extremely delicious! The other great method works great for parties. Take one or two roasts, put them in a crock pot or baking pan in the oven at 225 degrees. Add a bit of salt and pepper and some water and cook until done. Then slice the roast cross-grain and very thin, about the thickness of a quarter. Serve on buns with the au jus or some good organic BBQ sauce!
25) Can I get a T-Bone or Filet Mignon
26) I’m not going right home, how long can I keep this in the car
Meat needs to be kept refrigerated or at refrigerated temperature at all times except just prior to cooking. If no transportation cooler is available and one desires to bring home steaks, roasts, or ground, one can simply buy a small bag of ice and transport the meat items on ice in a plastic bag. If significant quantities of foods are purchased, the meat items can be bagged alongside the frozen food to keep it cold.
27) Why isn’t your meat marbled
Naturally, bison do not marble when they are fed their natural, grass diet. They will marble when pushed hard on high energy feed. While a new standard has not been created yet for 100% grass-fed bison or beef, we can still assure our customers of what grading provides, that being an assurance of tenderness, juiciness, and flavor.
28) How do you pick out a good steak
First of all, you have already done the most important thing, get a naturally-raised and 100% grass-fed steak. That is utmost. The next most desirable characteristic of a good steak eating experience are flavor, tenderness, and high proportion of meat with very little waste. Beyond that, there are many subjective options. Most people agree that the most tender steak will be a Tenderloin, also called the Filet Mignon and the smaller muscle found in a T-bone steak, which is always of utmost tenderness. There is nothing wasted with this cut of meat. The Tenderloin should not be cooked beyond medium-rare. Moving up on the flavor scale, the most popular steaks are NY Strip and the Rib eye which are variations of the cut that includes the other and larger muscle found in a T-bone steak. Further down the loin muscle comes more flavors and a bit less tenderness. The Top Sirloin steak is usually less expensive, has a bit less tenderness but an abundance of flavor. Flank steak can make a good cut of meat especially if marinated or served as fajita strips or for stir-fry.
29) Do you have pork, chicken, lamb, or other meats
Yes, we have recently expanded out line to include chicken, lamb, goat, beef, elk, ostrich, and pstured pork.
30) How do you recommend to thaw meat?
We recommend that a person ALWAYS places the frozen meat package onto a plate or bowl for the thawing process to prevent a possible blood leek to spill onto your counter, clothes or refrigerator items. Meat is aalso advised to thaw on the bottom shelf so no blood spillage can contaminate other foods in your refrigerator.
All about buying Northstar Bison meats:
31) How expensive is it
It’s about the same as Organic Beef. A little bit more than factory meat, which may be a bit shocking at first, BUT when you see how it cooks up and how satisfying it is you will note that the “true cost” is far less than you think. Our hamburger doesn’t fry away, which saves money. Our steaks are so nutrient dense that an 8 oz steak will satisfy a big appetite.
32) Does your meat ever go on sale?
While we have occasional sales or promotions we try to keep the price of our meat as low as possible all the time. We do feature monthly specials.
33) Where are you guys located
We have our main ranch and ranch store (see store hours) just 8 miles north of Rice Lake, WI at Hwy 53 & Cty Rd. V. We are in Rice Lake, WI. About 100 miles NE of Twin Cities area, just across the river in the marginal crop land area so it’s perfect for raising grass-fed bison. We are LOCAL.
**Our newest facility and store (open daily, M-F) is on 2500 College Drive, Rice Lake, WI. 715-234-9085
34) Where can I get it
View STORE LOCATOR for a place near you.
35) Do you sell direct
Yes, it’s very easy to order direct. You can get as little as 5# or as much as an eighth, quarter, or half of a bison. Buying in bulk is cheaper and the larger size you get, the cheaper it is. You can buy a larger quantity and split the order with others. We direct ship right to your home.
36) Which restaurants have your bison
There are approximately 15 restaurants, primarily in the Twin City area that serve our 100% grass-fed bison. A complete listing can be found on our website www.northstarbison.com. Both Good Earth Restaurants serve our bison on their menu.
Q: Is bison meat good for women
A: Yes. Iron is very important to womens health…and Bison Meat is high in iron (has more iron per serving than beef, chicken, or pork). Women require more iron than males and are susceptible to the iron deficiency condition: anemia. Having low iron levels can also make you feel tired, affect your concentration and increase your risk of infection.
Increased levels of iron in your diet is especially important during pregnancy. Your body makes more blood when you are pregnant because you and your baby are growing and so the pregnant body needs more iron to make healthy blood. Low levels of iron can affect the mom’s health and baby’s growth.
When you choose Bison meat, you are not only getting a meat high in iron, but it is low in fat, calories and cholesterol – a perfect combination for any woman! Plus, it tastes delicious.
Question: Is it Buffalo Meat or Bison Meat
Answer: Even though referenced in popular folklore and campfire songs, the buffalo did not, in fact, roam in America. The animal commonly referred to as a buffalo, is in fact, the American Bison. Officially, there are two species of buffalo, the African Buffalo and the Asian Buffalo, but these animals are completely unrelated to the American Bison and they don’t even look like Bison. So technically, the Buffalo has never been native to North America.
There was a time when bison had nearly died out in the country’s Bison Belt. Their meat was valued for being rich in nutrients and high in protein, however the real value in bison during the westward movement was the animals’ large and plush hides. A select few small herds survived the near extinction by hiding in isolated areas such as Utah’s Antelope Island or Pelican Valley near Yellowstone National Park. In the early 1900’s, a few ranchers tried to revive the bison by gathering small herds together in order to create a sustainable population. Because of the diligent work of these ranchers to reestablish the bison as a mainstay in North America, the North American Bison is no longer an endangered species.
For the last couple of decades, ranchers and bison enthusiasts alike have worked hard to reintroduce bison as a consumable meat, a delicious alternative to beef.
So, in answer to your question, buffalo and bison are often used interchangeably to describe this delicious meat, but technically, it is “bison” meat.
Question: I am extremely concerned with eating products that are natural and grass fed. How are your animals treated
Answer: Our herd of 600 bison roams free on 1200 acres of lush pastures in northwestern Wisconsin and graze on its native grasses. Our animals are 100% grassfed from birth to plate, never having antibiotics or hormones either. We do a field kill method to minimize any stress at the time of slaughter with helps to preserve the tenderness and sweetness of the meat. We own our slaughter plant so the animals so we maintain control of all the handling of them thru the processing stage also. Our bison would meet your pure, grassfed standards.
Question: I have heard that bison meat is healthier meat, but how does it compare to leaner proteins such as chicken
Answer: Actually, bison may be one of the healthiest proteins you can consume for a couple of reasons. First of all, bison meat has fewer calories and less cholesterol than chicken, fish, or ostrich. Additionally, because bison meat is so rich in protein (40% more than beef) you can eat less bison meat and come away from the table full.
Question: I want to try buffalo meat, but I don’t know where to start. Is there a good starter pack or recipe to try first